Weekend Sun column

Friday, October 23, 2015

Last week Economic Development Steven Joyce released the 2015 Regional Economic Activity Report. The Report is designed to identify potential areas of growth in each region. It noted that the Bay of Plenty has a range of opportunities in forestry and wood processing, horticulture and agriculture and also commented on the region’s abundant geothermal and water resources.

I was particularly interested in the comment, “growth in the Bay of Plenty economy will require higher levels of formal qualifications and skills in the population. There are opportunities to enable youth to continue with their education and find employment in the region.”

While the number of 18 year olds in the Bay of Plenty obtaining a minimum of NCEA Level 2 is above the national average, the number of 25 to 34 year olds in the region with a Level 4 or higher qualification is well below the national average.

We recognise that education is not a “one size fits all”. Trade Academies are one way in which we can keep young people engaged in learning. They provide a different learning choice for students; one that focuses on vocational training that is directly related to the workforce and skill needs of industry.

That’s why National is funding more Trades Academy places to meet the demand from our young students. From 2016, there will be 600 extra Trades Academy places per year, on top of the 340 extra places already announced in Budget 2015. The Bay of Plenty is one of the areas that have been prioritised to receive these extra places.

I am also pleased to see that new Tauranga tertiary campus, due to open in 2020, will have a focus on courses that complement the region, such as logistics, marine and horticulture.

A strong and growing economy requires an educated and skilled workforce, and I am focused on helping to deliver that for Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty.